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Home owners are starting to pay a lot more attention to indoor air quality when selecting building products.

This is particularly the case where children, elderly, or sick are involved, as they are more vulnerable to toxins.

It has been estimated that we spend 90% of our lives indoors, so it is no wonder that there is a healthy concern about indoor air quality.

There are several threats to good indoor air quality.

One threat is volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are chemicals that evaporate into the atmosphere at room temperature. They often have an odour and are present in a wide range of household products, construction materials and furnishings. These include paints, manufactured wood products, adhesives, cleaning agents and flooring.

Low emissions from large surface areas can result in high total emissions, for example from painted walls and carpets. Warmer temperatures and humidity can increase the rate of emissions.

Materials that harbour allergens can also cause health problems, such as carpets harbouring dust mites.

Emissions from gas heaters, cooking and wood stoves can also detract from indoor air quality.

Lead is also present mostly in older homes, being contained in old paints, flashings and PVC.

The good news is that there is plenty you can do to improve indoor air quality.

First, eliminate the causes of indoor air pollution. There is much you can do to reduce VOCs:

  • Choose low VOC or VOC free materials and finishes, e.g. paints, carpets, and cleaners
  • Ask your builder to source water based, low VOC adhesives
  • Use products that don’t require a finishing product
  • Ensure that you have adequate ventilation around your fridge
  • Avoid gluing timber floors where possible
  • Choose natural oils and waxes in preference to solvent based or synthetic sealers

Next, make sure in designing a home or a renovation that you make the best use of natural ventilation (natural breezes), minimising moisture and ensuring that there is a sealable door between the garage and the rest of the home.

Where possible, exhaust cooking fumes outside.

Also, ensure that you regularly vacuum your carpets and air your rooms.

You may also want to include indoor plants which help absorb pollutants. Research from the University of Technology, Sydney, has shown that indoor plants can remove VOCs from air.

So do your research thoroughly and select your building products wisely.

Geoff Cooper LLB (hons); BEcon; PDipBus(PR) is director of Communications at MBAWA